The 25th Hour

I read something by Sheila Walsh (Women of Faith speaker) this morning that jolted me awake.

I was still lying in bed, aware of the sound of the baby stirring in the monitor, but not really cognizant enough yet to act on it. It was going take more than just a couple of “I’m awake!” wimpers from #3’s room to stir me. We’d already been up together for some quality bonding time from about 4:00- 6:00. At 8:00, I was waiting for the full-on wails and a Mack truck to lift my big bottom and get it moving. I blame it on my pillows, y’all. Oh, be still my heart… my pillows. Just the right fluff, 2 semi-flat ones (not too fluffy, not too stiff) stacked up under my head, one REALLY fluffy one beside me on the outside because even though I’m 34-years-old, the edge of the bed still freaks me out a little in the middle of the night. Now that I found a replacement housekeeper, fresh-smelling pillow cases hold me hostage. Everything was so peaceful in that groggy, don’t-make-me-open-my-eyes-yet bliss that preceded the morning routine.

So I can only blame myself for the abrupt end to such a peaceful morning start. But what can I say? My phone needed me to check it. Most days, I do a quick scroll before I get out of bed. Glance at facebook and Instagram; check email. And boo-yah! Today I landed a free e-download!  Daily Devotions for Women: 10 days of devotions by Women of Faith. Um yeah. I’ve got a few seconds to start my day by dwelling on words that I can count on to inspire me and teach me a biblical truth.

Because I like to peruse my books before I start reading them, I usually stop on some page in the middle that intrigues me and read a little there. Hopefully I force myself to a stopping place before the end so I can back up and start again at the beginning like normal readers probably do. Today, the page that caught my eye was titled “Never Off Duty.” Now, that got my attention.

I began reading this devotion by Walsh with the thought, “Finally! Someone who understands me!” I felt excited about the refreshing words that would remind me I’m not the only one who always feels “on.” It’s the kind of stuff that makes you have love affairs with your pillows and drives the average mom, who is head-over-heels in love with her children, to wait for those darlings to scream and wail from the crib before she admits it’s probably time to go get them up.

Not that I’ve done that or anything.

Not that I did that this morning.

But do you know what?

That Walsh lady did not have one single uplifting comment for me! Her tone was more like the one we’ve adopted on the campus where I teach–“Suck it up, Buttercup!”

Now, that got my attention.

But she said it best,

“It’s easy to be loving and kind for twenty-four hours to thousands of complete strangers knowing that I’ll fly home shortly. But my lifelong commitment is to my husband.”

Christ was never “off duty.” Even when he went alone to pray, to catch a few minutes rest, he welcomed interruptions and used them to teach. We’re called to love, love, love, and never stop loving because Christ loved, loved, loved, and thank goodness never stops loving.  It’s easy to come home and shut down after the kids are in bed and the nightly chores are done. It may be 8 or 9:00 (or later if there’s school work to do for us teachers), but heck, the prospect of “turning off” is what keeps me going many nights so I can make it to 8:00.

Now, my husband is a coach. So I can afford the luxury of “turning off” most nights, simply because he isn’t home to need my attention. But Walsh made me realize I’ve fallen into a dangerous trap, because I’ve let “off” become my  nightly habit. When I want to be, I am EXTREMELY committed. ha!

Wives of coaches, you understand, don’t you? When Coach is gone more than he’s home, you naturally develop your own way of doing things. And darn it if he doesn’t come home on Saturday night and you feel like your whole routine is smashed to pieces even though you’ve been pining for him to come home since Monday night!

Even if my husband isn’t home often, when he is home, Christ commands that I love him. Love on him. Make him feel loved. Open the lines of communication again. Pray over him and with him.

25th hourThe burning question remains though– how do I keep loving when I physically and spiritually (my whole body and soul y’all!) ache for the second I can feel like I’m off duty?

Prayer.

It starts with prayer.

Lord, I want to love and to give like you loved and gave.

Lord, give me what I need for right now.

For me, communication is also key.

It’s not fair to Brad that the first time he’s alerted to my problems is when I’ve escalated to panic and rage mode. Instead of blowing up on him the first night he’s able to spend time with me, or worse ignoring him because isolation is easier than arguing, I can be ready to love him. Hopefully by then, we’ve had some quick, casual conversations throughout the week and if there is a problem simmering below the surface, he’s been made aware of it. During those precious times we’re together, we can then focus on loving each other.

Not to say that a well-timed and well-meaning argument isn’t necessary from time to time. A family friend of ours answered her phone one afternoon to hear her neighbor from across the street on the line: “Can you come over and watch the kids for a few minutes? M* and I need to step outside and yell at each other.”

Ha!

Lastly, I may just have to eat my own words and suck it up, buttercup.

If I’m doing everything else: praying, communicating, finding ways to take care of my own needs (MOMS, it’s okay to make yourself a priority every now and then!), then sometimes extending love to others is just sheer sacrifice. We do it because it’s good for our relationships, but mostly it’s good for our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

=          =          =          =          =          =          =         =         =          =         =          =          =

Frequently, I wish there was just one more hour in the day. Work and laundry and backpacks and lunches and bottles never end. The to-do list will never be complete, so I’m glad I’ve accepted that as a fact rather than a defeat. Because when it all comes down to it, if I were finally granted a 25th hour like I’ve always wished, I probably wouldn’t try to get another thing marked off the list anyway. I’d focus on loving…  loving that tall drink of water I married 11 years ago and those three boys who rarely let me “off duty.”

Not exactly the sharpest crayon in the box:

What Mother Teresa would say about my TOTAL lack of common sense

Are you book smart? Or are you street smart?

Or are you one of those rare gems who can claim both?

When I was in high school, my tendency to lean toward book smart became blaringly obvious. I have a feeling my parents had always known I had a certain deficit in that other area but I remember the first time I realized my own lack of common sense.

Ha! The truth hurts.

My tenth grade English class was signing up for research paper topics. My first choice was Grace Kelly. I used to watch a television show called Grace Under Fire. I could have sworn the main character’s name was Grace Kelly. grace_under_fire-show

Princess of what?
Where the heck is Monaco?
Next!

So I begged my teacher to let me change my topic– Yul Brynner? Sure, I love that movie Cool Runnings! My favorite part, of course, is the end when the Jamaican character Yul Brenner and his teammates crawl out of the crashed bob sled and carry it across the finish line. I still get goose bumps thinking about it!

I was so irritated when my mom told me Brynner was the guy from The King and I.

Yawn! cool-runnings

She was always bursting my bubbles like that. I should have jumped on Oprah Winfrey when I had the chance.

No wonder my mom still worries about me, even now as an adult leading my own family. Look what she was up against all those years! When all you have is book smarts to make it through the day, life can get rough!

Thank goodness scripture says that when we ask God for wisdom, He will not deny us. James 1:5 reads, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” Undoubtedly there are phases in life when I have pointedly sought wisdom about specific situations or choices that needed to be made. Is this the right time to start a family? Should we move here? Should we invest in that? Should I take this job over that one? In those times when I felt pressured to make the “right” decision, all of a sudden I had an urgent need to discover God’s will and most of my prayers ended up starting by asking begging for wisdom. No shame in that. I think that is a natural, sincere effort to keep our hearts aligned with His.

But…

I came to an epiphany recently. Our pastor spoke about trusting God as part of a series on Wisdom (the scripture references from that sermon are below), and he made me question myself.

He related a story about Mother Teresa, in which she interacted with ethicist John Kavanaugh. Basically, Kavanaugh asked Mother Teresa if she would pray for clarity for him so he would know what to do with his life.

And she refused!

She said to him, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”

I thought back to many of the times when I asked God for wisdom– how to handle a situation or which choice to make. I realized even though I was asking God for wisdom, what I really meant was that I wanted clarity. I wanted a sure sign of which path was the “right way.” Like I was hoping The Almighty would tilt his crystal ball just a tinge so I could catch a glimpse of my future and make sure everything was going according to plan. And because I tend to expect the world to spin for me alone, my plan, unfortunately.

I want to be more intentional in seeking His wisdom. Is my search truly for wisdom? Or am I showing a lack of trust? Am I looking instead for clarity? Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

If I seek wisdom and trust The Almighty (sometimes with clarity, often without), what hope will accompany me!

 

Proverbs 3: 5-6
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
And he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 28:26
Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.

Romans 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

“Mama, there’s a booger stuck in my teeth!”

Life can’t prepare you for parenting. It’s the final exam, homework, lecture, and mid-term all rolled into one.

Other declarations that have taken me by surprise:

* SURPRISE, Mama! I got an ice cream sandwich for breakfast! [Gather your attack quickly.] Oh look, I have one for you too! [Well, in that case…]

* [From the bathroom] You better not come in here. You’ll be mad!   . . . . .  CANNONBAAAAAAAAAALL!

* GASP! Mama, you used to be a Princess?!?!? [note to self: remove wedding portrait from master bedroom immediately]

* Hey, Mommy. Look! I made footprints with my tee-tee!

* Mom, do you want me to put this booger in my mouth? Because I did this morning, and it was really yummy!

* Is that Jesus? [note to self: a bearded Zach Galifianakis in the movie The Hangover should not be causing this much confusion. Plus, pretty sure Jesus never strapped a baby named Carlos to his chest in a baby backpack. That’s not what he meant by “Let the little children come unto me.”]

Turned my back for 2 seconds, and that little stinker had emptied the shredder and was "cooking" on the treadmill.

Turned my back for 2 seconds, and that little stinker had emptied the shredder and was “cooking” on the treadmill.

And while we’re at it… Things I Never Thought My Adult Self Would Say Out Loud

* Please don’t lick me when you hug me.

* Yes, you have to flush your poop. No, we’re not saving it.

* If you make me late to work this morning, I’m going to call Santa and tell him to forget Christmas!

* If you aim that sword at your brother one more time, I’m going to call Santa and tell him…

* If you whine about your spelling list again, I’m going to call Santa…

* NO! The tooth fairy would NEVER forget about you! She’s so clever! She’s playing with you. Now, think about a place in the house where she knows you’ll be able to find your tooth money. Somewhere you go every morning.   …the kitchen counter? YES! I bet it’s still there.

* Please don’t lick my leg again.

*No, I don’t think the baby likes wedgies.

If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy! If Daddy ain’t happy…

…ain’t nobody care.

A news push I received on my phone once. Maybe I'm having a bad day, but it's not nearly this bad!

A news push I received on my phone once. Maybe I’m having a bad day, but it’s not nearly this bad!

Y’all, I am not having a great week. You name it, I’ve experienced it and, thankfully, lived to tell about it.

This evening, while I was sitting on the side of the road in my idling car– just yards from the building where I was going to make my final pick-up and head home with the boys– I had a few moments to reflect on my week. After all, that nice officer behind me was still deciding whether to return to my driver’s side window with a verdict of warning or citation. While I waited, I contemplated whether or not I wanted to just let it all go with a guttural “screw it” and succumb to the meltdown that was, by now, simmering barely below the surface of my sanity.

Well, what I really wanted to do was find the next person gutsy enough to say, “But it’s just teaching…” when I try to explain the intricacies of getting at-risk 13- and 14-year-olds to learn to read and then punch him or her in the throat.

And then youtube it.

Yeah, I might have a problem.

It’s silly, I know, but I was too embarrassed to let the officer return to my window and see me crying. I’m a closet crier. No way am I going to parade that business in front of the world! I’m way too much of an introvert to let that loose. So I had no choice but to summon the stoic look of my inner Queen Elizabeth and keep it all together.

And I did… long enough to remember something I’d learned a little earlier this summer. I think it applies here just fine… And thank you, Holy Spirit, for reminding me of what I already know. Thank you for knowing I needed the gentle push to call on it once more. What a difference a change in perspective makes!

{from June 2013}

I was reminded of the most refreshing idea tonight at our small group. (That’s our church’s version of “Sunday School.”)

About a third of the way into the video part of the Bible study we’re doing (Matt Chandler’s Philippians), I realized I wasn’t really invested much in what we were sitting down to learn. I just kinda showed up at the small group because it’s Wednesday and that’s what you do on Wednesdays. I was still feeling the aftershocks of a bad day and I didn’t come ready to hear a fresh word or to directly connect with the Almighty.

"To live is Christ & to die is gain"

“To live is Christ & to die is gain”

And then Chandler said something along these lines: Scripture says that we’re not under God’s wrath. When things don’t go the way we wanted them to or when something bad happens, it’s not God pointing down at us, shaking a wrathful finger in our face. Those times are a gift. They’re uncomfortable for a purpose– to remind us that this world, this life, is temporary.

How easily I lost sight of that today. I believe that the Bible is real and it is God-breathed. Therefore, I believe that Heaven is real. First-world problems plagued me today, and Biblically speaking I can look at them from a different point-of-view. They are gifts– to learn from, to laugh at, whatever. But regardless, they are temporary. This world is not my home. Technically speaking, I will spend waaaaaaay more time in Heaven than I ever will here on Earth.

I’m going to try to “keep my eye on the prize” as Philippians says. One day, I’m going to see my Christ face to face and hear the angels singing glory around God’s throne.

That’s the day I will live for.